Time Machines

Way Back in 2004, TheFacebook.com Offered to Out You to Advertisers

Undergrads display questionable judgement, film at 11.
 Way Back in 2004, TheFacebook.com Offered to Out You to Advertisers

Mr. Saverin (therichest.org)

Nowadays Facebook is very cautious around the third rail that is sexual orientation. Sure, there’s a timeline icon just for gay marriage, but the company won’t serve up ladies seeking ladies to advertisers. But that wasn’t always the case.

Digiday has gotten its hands on an interesting piece of Internet history: the social network’s very first pitch to advertisers, from way back in spring 2004. The site was still thefacebook.com, it was only available on select college campuses, Peter Thiel hadn’t invested yet and that random dude was still chilling in the upper lefthand corner.

However, Eduardo Saverin was already talking up the site’s biggest advantage: data, and the targeting that allows advertisers to do.

The deck promises that, on this “expanding online directory,” brands could buy “targeted advertisement on the basis of any (or a combination of) the following parameters,” a list including college, relationship/dating interets, political bent, courses taken and–oh yes–sexual orientation.

Digiday adds: “Saverin was asking for ad commitments of around $80,000 for targeted display ad placements that would reach ‘thousands’ of users.”

Of course, it’s not terribly surprising that a crew of undergrads–one of whom had already built Harvard its very own Hot or Not–would struggle a touch with concepts like “privacy” and “boundaries.” This might actually be the more jarring tidbit: “the site has a built-in database of school courses and concentrations and automatically builds a user’s class schedule.”

Remember that brief, halcyon time when it seemed like Facebook might have some actual educational value, rather than simply becoming a massive digital-crop filled timesuck? Good times.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com